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Hurricane Gets in the Lineup

Isabel's winds are a factor in baseball games in Philadelphia and Baltimore. The storm prompts schedule changes.

September 19, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

If the Philadelphia Phillies rally past the Florida Marlins and win the National League wild-card playoff berth, blame it on the fickle winds of Hurricane Isabel. The Phillies moved the start of Thursday's game to the afternoon from the evening to avoid Isabel.

It didn't work.

However, the Phillies benefited from winds that gusted to 32 mph and periodic showers from the fast-approaching storm during a 5-4 victory over the Marlins at Veterans Stadium. Florida's lead over Philadelphia is half a game, with the teams playing three more games in Miami next week.

The swirling winds inside the stadium helped the Phillies rally from a 3-0 deficit in the fifth inning, turning Mike Lieberthal's two-out blooper down the right-field line into a two-run double. The ball bounced twice off first baseman Derrek Lee's glove on the play.

"The wind just kept picking up," Lieberthal told Associated Press. "The conditions were unbelievable."

With the score tied, 4-4, in the eighth inning, Jim Thome homered to give the Phillies the lead for good. A crowd of 35,000 had been expected to see the final game of a three-game series between teams battling for the playoff spot. The Phillies offered fans a chance to exchange their tickets for another game. The announced attendance was 20,195 but appeared to be far less.

The Marlins packed their bags and beat a hasty retreat to the airport, catching a flight to Atlanta for their next series.

Like the Phillies, the Baltimore Orioles moved up their game against the New York Yankees to the afternoon in the hope the teams could play nine innings before Isabel struck the East Coast.

The Orioles and Yankees reached the fifth inning with the score tied, 1-1, before strong winds and steady rain halted the sparsely attended game at Camden Yards. Mike Mussina was denied a chance to win his 200th game.

After a 44-minute wait, the game was postponed, with a doubleheader scheduled for either Sept. 26 or 27, when the teams play at New York on the season's final weekend.

The stadium's upper deck was closed, and fans were told to take any seat in the lower stands.

At times, the players' jerseys billowed like sails in winds that gusted to 35 mph. But that was nothing compared to the postgame bluster from Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, who said the commissioner's office showed "terrible judgment and overall stupidity" in allowing the game to be rescheduled from 7 p.m. EDT to 12:30, rather than postponing it, allowing the Yankees to leave ahead of the hurricane.

"Schools, businesses, athletic events -- virtually everything -- was called off," Steinbrenner said in a statement released by the team. "And for them to proceed was stupidity at its worst."

The Yankees boarded a bus for a trip to the airport and a flight to Tampa, Fla., for a weekend series against the Devil Rays. With Baltimore-Washington International Airport shut down because of Isabel, the Yankees drove about 100 miles north to Philadelphia instead.

Many other sporting events along the Eastern Seaboard were canceled or postponed Thursday as Isabel came ashore.

High winds forced the cancellation of races at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J.

At Washington, the U.S. women's soccer team, preparing for the opening of the World Cup this weekend, called off today's practice.

In North Carolina, high schools postponed or canceled football games, rescheduling some of them for Wednesday. At Dover, Del., today's Busch series race was canceled, but races Saturday and Sunday will take place as scheduled.

At Wilkes-Barre, Pa., the Pittsburgh Penguin-Washington Capital NHL exhibition game was moved from Thursday to Sunday.

The Cal State Northridge women's soccer team's game against James Madison in Harrisonburg, Va., was moved from today to Saturday.

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